The following post is student work from the WICE feature-writing course – Paris, Mai 2019
L Adieu a la Nuit (Farewell to Darkness)
film review by Mo. Amaudry
Andre Techine’s latest movie, which stars the iconic French actress Catherine Deneuve, is an intense and poignant thriller about a dysfunctional family facing contemporary cultural issues.
Inspired by journalist David Thomson’s series of interviews with French radicalised youth, the film tells the story of an attractive and well bred young man, who comes to visit his grandmother before taking off to seek his fortune in Canada, or so we are led to believe.
Deneuve is his only family left and as a grand mother, the actress breaks away from the ice- queen image, for which she is known since appearing on the cover of Time magazine a couple of decades ago as the most beautiful blonde in the world. Here she plays a dark-haired grandma ‘to look more authentic’ she claims, wearing riding boots and plaid shirts, running a ranch in the wild Basque country.
The story is set against the rough, sunny and beautiful coastline in Southwest France. We initially watch a lunar eclipse quickly clearing up to show a large cherry tree orchard in full bloom where Deneuve is stalking a wild boar with her rifle. She intimidates them but lets him get away.
The carefully crafted story line shows sunny life on the ranch, where young kids riding thorough bred horses are celebrating a horse race. But Deneuve’s grandson Alex, is conspicuously absent, as he is planning his pending departure to new horizons.
We soon discover the dark menace ahead when Alex goes to meet his muslin girlfriend. She is a social worker, but has also become a member of a group of jihadists. She is the leading force behind Alex’s indoctrination to radical Islam.
Techine s film flows smoothly from one scene to another to set off the intergenerational conflicts, in today’s society. Deneuve tries everything to prevent her grandson from leaving, while Alex is determined to do whatever it takes to pursue his goal.
The beauty and intensity of the movie is found through cinematographer Julian Hirsch camera which criss-crosses the emotional and physical paths followed by the protagonists, while the tension and the passion mounts on both sides to lead to a conclusion which will leave both sides deeply bruised but with a ray of hope.
Techina, who is 76 and has previously shot 8 movies with Deneuve, sticks successfully to his detached approach to story telling and does not pass judgement on the characters, leaving the viewer to think hard and long about the issues facing a dysfunctional society.
Deneuve gives a poignant performance as a grandmother attempting to save her grandson from his deadly fate. She leads the film with grace and dignity and her unabashed determination. Turning 75 this year, still attractive and ageing gracefully, she is one of the most important actresses of our time having worked with the greatest film directors such as Luis Bunuel, Roman Polanski, Jacques Demis, and Francois Truffaut. Today, she keeps playing leading roles in films dealing with serious societal and cultural issues with the talent and skill that have infatuated her viewers for the past 7 decades!
L’ Adieu a la Nuit, (Farewell to Darkness) DVD will be out next August.